There are myriad theories as to how the horseshoe came to be a symbol of good luck. One of the most compelling theories is that the horseshoe evokes the shape of a crescent moon, which many ancient cultures believed to influence the bounty of crops and effect the events of everyday life. Amulets in this shape such as animal horns, the mano cornuto (the sign of the horns co-opted by 20th century metalheads, but originally used as early as Ancient Rome as anti-witch gesture and/or talisman), and yes, also the horseshoe, have been used the world over as a protection against the evil eye and bringer of fortune. Another interesting postulate is that it's not the shape, but rather the metal itself (iron) that works to protect the wearer or dwelling where it is employed. Pliny the Elder wrote that iron nails hammered into the doorway of a home would guard against night spirits. In Arab mythology, the demons known as Jinn could be exorcised by merely speaking the word "iron". Whatever the explanation, across centuries and cultures, the horseshoe is widely believed to be a bringer of luck. This Victorian 14k gold bangle is fashioned in gold with a horseshoe studded with coral and pearls.
VICTORIAN (1837 - 1901)
The Western world was thoroughly transformed during Queen Victoria’s epically long reign. New technology, urbanization, and industrialization created a middle class flush with disposable income, and for the first time, jewelry was mass-produced to sell to everyone.
The Victorians were avid consumers and novelty-seekers, especially when it came to fashion, and numerous fads came and went throughout the 19th century. In jewelry, whatever fashion choices Queen V. made reverberated throughout the kingdom. The Romantic period reflected the queen’s legendary love for her husband, Albert. Jewelry from this period featured joyful designs like flowers, hearts, and birds, all which often had symbolic meaning. The queen’s betrothal ring was made in the shape of a snake, which stood for love, fidelity, and eternity. The exuberant tone shifted after Prince Albert passed away in 1861, marking the beginning of the Grand Period. Black jewelry became de rigeur as the Queen and her subjects entered “mourning,” which at the time represented not just an emotional state, as we conceive of it today, but a specific manner of conduct and dress. She wore the color black for the remainder of her life, and we see lots of black onyx, enamel, jet, and gutta percha in the jewelry from this time. Finally, during the late Victorian period, which transitioned along with a rapidly changing world into the “Aesthetic Movemement”, there was a return to organic and whimsical motifs: serpents, crescent moons, animals, and Japonaisserie designed for the more liberated “Gibson Girl”.
During the second half of the 19th century, America entered the global jewelry market, with Tiffany and Co. leading the way. Lapidaries continued to perfect their techniques, and the old European cut emerged toward the end of the Victorian period. The discovery of rich diamond mines in South Africa made the colorless stones more accessible than ever before.